Meadville Tribune

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June 16, 2010

Photographer recalls last interactions with Sgt. 1st Class Robert Fike

(Continued)

Harrisburg — Pat Bywater can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at pbywater@meadvilletribune.com.

Meet the photographer

Dan Shakal is not your regular embedded freelance photographer.

The 31-year-old Harrisburg resident had no formal photographic training, media experience or any prospects of publication the first time he went to Iraq to take pictures of the troops back in 2003.

“I had stopped seeing stuff in the local newspapers about the wars. I thought maybe someone should do something to get the word out about these guys (U.S. soldiers),” he said.

So he flew to Turkey and caught a cab into the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Up to that point the furthest he’d been from home was Las Vegas. He didn’t know any Arabic.

Now he’s been to Iraq three times and Afghanistan once, mostly embedded with Pennsylvania National Guard units. In between he comes home and finds what work he can long enough to fund his next trip. There’s been no big payoff in taking the pictures, but he finds the work very satisfying.

Once his pictures were featured in a spread by the Patriot-News, and he was still with the soldiers when their families wrote to them about seeing the pictures.

“The guys were happy and their families were excited and that made me feel really good.”



You can help

A fund to aid the 12-year-old daughter of a local soldier killed in action has been established at Citizens Bank.

Donations can be made at any branch to the SFC Robert J. Fike Fund, according to Fike’s brother, Chris. Fike, a Conneautville resident, was on patrol in Afghanistan on Friday when he was killed by a suicide bomber. His daughter is Mackenzie Bliscik of Meadville.

Funeral arrangements are not yet complete.

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